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Reach vs Impressions – What’s The Difference?

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Are you doing everything possible to grow and influence your audience on social media? Is your business working toward better brand awareness? Have you been wondering what exactly is the difference between “reach” and “impressions”? Which one should you be paying attention to? And what do these terms mean for your marketing operation? your answers are all here!

Reach vs Impressions - What’s The Difference?

Marketers commonly encounter these two terms. If so, it’s critical to know the difference between reach vs impressions. Let’s say you’ve just launched an advertising campaign or published a piece of content, and you want to see how it’s doing. Opening your analytics dashboard and seeing two words pop up over and over: “impressions” and “reach.”

You’re sure those two thing mean separate things, and you’ve not fully understood the difference between reach vs impressions. Many understand the importance of social media engagement. However, when it comes to strategy, it’s all about accurately measuring your metrics and finding areas to increase efforts.

The difference between Reach vs Impressions

Reach and impressions mean different things on different platforms. What Facebook calls “impressions” Twitter used to refer to as “reach,” for example. But in general, they describe two concepts:

Reach is the total number of unique  people who see your content. In a perfect world, every one of your followers would see every piece of content you posted. If 100 total people have seen your ad, that means your ad’s reach is 100. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work on social, and not all of your followers will see every single post you publish.

For instance, Daisron paper flowers has 50 million followers on Facebook, but their organic content doesn’t come close to that number of engagements because only a fraction of their audience sees it.

However, an impression means that content was delivered to someone’s feed. Also, one person could have multiple impressions for a single piece of content. A viewer doesn’t have to engage with the post in order for it to count as an impression.

Impressions are the number of times your content is displayed on a screen, no matter if it was clicked or not. Let’s say that your ad from the previous example popped up on those people’s screens a total of 300 times. That means the number of impressions for that ad is 300.

More Insights into Reach vs Impressions

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between reach and impressions, but there’s still an underlying difference in terms of engagement. let’s say you have 130 followers on Twitter and you published one Tweet. If every one of your followers sees that Tweet, you have a reach of 130 users, along with 130 impressions.

To continue, say tomorrow you publish two Tweets to the same 130 followers. Your reach is still 130 users because your follower count didn’t change. However, now you have 200 impressions. Why? Because every single one of your 130 followers saw both Tweets you published.

Reason why you may notice the number of impressions for a Tweet may sometimes be more larger than your follower count.

If you want to make sure you’re focusing on the right metrics, the Social Media Metrics Map can help. This resource will help you understand all the metrics to focus on for each marketing goal and help you make a greater impact with your data.

It’s a bit of a demanding concept, but absolutely important to know when tracking the success of a social media campaign. If you recall nothing else about reach and impressions,

remember this Reach is the number of people who may have seen your content, while impressions are the total number of times your content was displayed to people.

Facebook Reach vs. Impressions

On Facebook, reach falls into three different categories namely:

  • Organic: This represents the number of unique people who saw your content—for free—in the News Feed.
  • Paid: This is the number of unique people who saw your paid content, such as a Facebook Ad.
  • Viral: This is the number of unique people who saw your post or Page mentioned in a story published by a friend. These stories also include actions such as Liking, sharing or commenting.

Having the same definite breakdowns certainly doesn’t keep reach and impressions separate. But remember our first example we discussed. If 10 Facebook fans each saw your post twice, the result would be 10 impressions (the number of times displayed multiplied by the number of unique people who saw it and a reach of five (the unique people who saw it).

But if you’re using Facebook Ads, there are two additional types of impressions to track: served and viewed. Neither “reach” nor “impressions” indicate that someone has actually clicked on, or even seen your ad.

Reach on Facebook is different from impressions, which Facebook defines as: “the number of times your ads were on screen.” A unique user could see a post three times in their feed throughout the time span of the campaign. That would count as three impressions.

When a Facebook Ad is served, it means the publisher told the system to deliver an ad. As long as the system registers delivery of that ad, it’s counted as a success—a served impression. This is a little sneaky because it’s counting a success regardless of whether or not an ad is seen.

Served impressions include ads that no one sees because they appear below the fold or because the person left the page before it could finish rendering. It’s inaccurate and leaves a big gap between the number of ads served and the number seen.

How to improve your page search

Monitor & analyze engagement metrics regularly

Impressions measure your ability to get your content in front of your intended audience. When your impressions rise, it’s likely due to your content surfacing more frequently into users’ feeds.

This usually means your posts are optimized for whichever social network you’re using. If you do not see the impressions you hoped for, first look at how you share your content. Is it optimized for the platform you’re using?

Another tip to consider when trying to increase impressions is to focus on growing the number of actively engaged fans in your community for that platform. Place more attention on publishing shareable content. As your community begins sharing your posts with their networks, your impressions (and reach) will increase.

The only way you’ll know if your efforts work is to regularly monitor and examine these metrics. Continually make improvements and assessments with changes and Facebook retargeting endeavors. Once you think you have your audience where you want, it’s smart to use social media monitoring tools to tag messages for specific departments on your social team.

This will help you avoid the back and forth between networks to easily streamline your social media through an all-in-one Smart Inbox. Tracking important metrics is tricky, but not with the right tools.

Know your target audience

As reach increases, it naturally leads to increased awareness. For businesses, it’s important to extend your reach to as many consumers as possible. But even if you’re reaching 20,000 people, it won’t mean a thing if only 2,000 of them have interest in your brand.

Sent messages lose effect and no value is gained when they’re pass over. Design messages and your content strategy with your target audience in mind.

Looking at the bigger picture

Learning the difference between reach vs. impressions is sometimes a little convoluted, but it’s not impossible to understand. Once you differentiate the two metrics, you begin working toward the most important one of all: social media engagement.

A common goal behind every social media campaign is increased engagement. If your content isn’t getting likes, replies or shares, something is wrong—either on the creation or targeting end.

Awareness comes before engagement, and reach and impressions drive people to take action. You can’t have one without the other, and you can’t improve one without also tweaking the others. So when you’re thinking about how to increase engagement, do so while also considering how reach and impressions play into it.

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